Big changes in what you'll see and hear on Blazers broadcasts
What's happening in the world of sports media in the City of Roses …
• There have been a number of changes at NBC Sports Northwest since the Trail Blazers ended their 2017-18 season.
Perhaps the biggest: There will no longer be a "Rip City Live" pregame show or a "Talking Ball" postgame show.
Instead, the "Blazers Outsiders" show — which aired last season after "Talking Ball" — will move into the half-hour pregame slot as well as the one-hour postgame slot starting about 30 minutes after the final horn. Blazers "die-hards" Joe Simons, Shain Brenden and Danny Marang will be back to host.
"I feel we have the right mix now of game-day content," NBCSNW general manager Len Mead says. "'Rip City Live' and 'Talking Ball' performed well, but we have an opportunity to do something that is more fan-centered than what those shows have been."
Jordan Kent and Michael Holton will continue to handle the half-hour pregame and postgame shows. The "Outsiders' trio will air before and after that.
"It's important for us to be more interactive and engage with the fans," Mead says. "This gives us the chance to do all the things we want to do on a game night. There is traditional analysis and replays (with Kent and Holton), but (with the 'Outsiders') it's more about what the fans' takeaway is."
Mead says they'll get that from Simons, Brenden and Marang.
"We like what we have with those guys," Mead says. "We love the chemistry they have. These are authentic fans. We think they put on an entertaining show. In no way are we trying to present them as game analysts. We have that covered already.
"If you're a fan watching this show, your takeaway should be, 'They're us. They're thinking about the same things we're thinking about.' Their emotions will swing high and low like a fan's would. And frankly, sometimes their eyes and ears are going to be on things that are less traditional. … It can go in a lot of different directions. We view these guys as voices of the fans."
The switch will mean no air presence for Orlando Williams, the ex-Duck who did an excellent job talking Blazers and the NBA on both "Rip City Live" and "Talking Ball" the past four years. I'll miss his personality and wisdom.
• Another big change: Serena Winters, who played host to NBCSN's "The Bridge" show Mondays through Fridays since last February, has left to take a position as television sideline reporter for the Philadelphia 76ers. Winters came to Portland last winter from Los Angeles, after working six years as an online and TV reporter for the Lakers.
"I couldn't be more excited," says Winters, who turned 30 on Tuesday. "I love being in an NBA arena. Though I covered (the Lakers) for six seasons, I never got the full experience of traveling on a team plane and getting to know players on a personal level. It's a dream come true. I can't wait."
Winters says she is sorry to be leaving Oregon.
"I absolutely loved my time in Portland," she says. "I loved the city. I cannot tell you now sad I'll be to leave. I had no idea how much I'd love it, from the people I met to how much there was to do.
"I made so many great friendships and relationships (at NBCSNW). I'll miss the people so much. I learned a ton. But I'm always up for something new. That's what life is about."
One other note: On her final night in Portland, Winters became engaged to fiance Dan Landman. He'll move from Portland to Philadelphia in November to be with her.
• Justin Myers, who worked for a short time last year as a co-host on a morning show on Rip City radio (KPOJ, 620 AM) last year, will take over for Winters hosting "The Bridge" — a show simulcast on Rip City radio — "for the foreseeable future," Mead says.
"The show has become more sports-centric since February," he says. "We've found that has resonated a bit better (with the audience). The show has gained some audience on radio that we've been happy with. It has become a little more sports. It has become a little more talk. Not that Serena wasn't capable, but those are areas Justin is particularly strong in."
• NBCSNW has also lost James Williams, who served as senior producer for the network for the past two years. Williams has taken a job in Chicago. Mead says he has not yet hired a replacement.
• The network will also be minus Jason Quick, who left to work for "The Athletic," a national sports website that has gained popularity in its two years in existence. Quick will cover the Blazers.
"I'm excited," Quick says. "It takes me back to my roots of in-depth writing. That's where my passion is. I've strayed away from that over the last few years because of the daily grind. I'm hoping to more in-depth profiles.
"One of the most intriguing things about working for 'The Athletic' is seeing its growth and the talent that they've amassed."
Quick says he quit NBCSNW because "we had a different philosophy on how to cover a team."
• Dwight Jaynes, who worked on the "Rip City Live" and "Talking Ball" shows in recent years, takes over for Quick as "Trail Blazers Insider." Jaynes will provide analysis for TV and the NBCSNW website. Jamie Hudson has been elevated to a newly created role as Blazers reporter, posting daily videos and written content. Also joining the lineup are analyst Dane Delgado, who previously worked for NBCSNW's "Pro Basketball Talk," and reporter Mike Richman.
• Expect to see some layoffs by NBCSNW — contracted to telecast Blazer games through the 2020-21 season — on its TV side by the end of the month. Mead wouldn't confirm, but said this: "We have allocated resources for our digital side. We have more people focused on our website and our social platforms than ever before. We have seen a lot of upside on our digital side, and our TV shows need to bring in a digital audience as well."
• Trail Blazers radio play-by-play voice Brian Wheeler starts the season on temporary medical leave as he continues to deal with weight and health issues.
For the time being, Rip City radio talk show host Travis Demers will handle play-by-play duties at home and on the road.
Wheeler has had a pair of bouts with scrotal lymphedema in recent years, missing four games in 2013 and several more last season. It's possible he will have surgery to alleviate the condition, though he says nothing has been decided.
The veteran broadcaster, who is in his 21st season with the Blazers, attended a weight-loss clinic at Duke University this summer and said he has lost about 50 pounds since his arrival there.
"It was an interesting experience," Wheeler says. "They did a good job educating me about things and giving me a way to focus on what I need to do health-wise. We're making progress. I wish it were better. I'm not at the finish line, but it's going in the right direction."
• Wheeler's predecessor with the Blazers, Bill Schonely, will serve as master of ceremonies at the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet Tuesday night for the 25th and final year.
"I'm starting to back off on everything," Schonely says. "I'm coming up on my 90th birthday (next June 1). I can't keep up the pace. The event has been a lot of fun, but I have to give it up sometime."